Monday, November 19, 2012

Daddy's Happy Girl

Joanna's closet overflows with cute clothes.  Frilly dresses, skinny jeans, corduroy jumpers.

But there's one item in particular that's especially fitting for our daughter - a pretty pink floral t-shirt with 3 words sprawled across the front:  "Daddy's Happy Girl."

And the shirt couldn't be more true.  She may be the happiest "daddy's girl" to ever walk the planet.

On the one hand, I love the fact that she loves her daddy.

I love that the first words she whispers when she wakes up are "Daddy downstairs?"
I smile knowing that her daddy's kisses can heal all wounds, right all wrongs, and fix all things.
I cherish her childlike prayers, asking Jesus to help "Daddy with the big kids."
And my heart brims with joy, knowing that when she's sick, sad, or in need of comfort, she finds rest in peace within the arms of her father.

I long for my little girl to know that her Daddy loves her, and that her Heavenly Father cherishes her even more!

But on the other hand, I resent it.

I feed. I change. I dress. I bathe. I play. I teach. I train. I instruct. I pray. And I feel utterly replaced and unappreciated when MY care of Joanna goes unnoticed, when my daily, and difficult, investments are quickly overshadowed by her "daddy love."

What I WANT is to be the fun one.  The one she runs to at playtime, asks for at bedtime.  What I LONG FOR is her joyful smile and appreciative giggles when I meet her basic needs.  I want Joanna to look at her mommy, and without a doubt, think she's the coolest woman in the world.  Maybe even cooler than her daddy.

I WANT to be appreciated.  And so I struggle when, after meeting all of her needs, she longs for someone else.

A dear friend encouraged me recently with Proverbs 31 - that the children of the faithful woman will rise up and call their mother "blessed!"  They will publicly praise her, thank her, appreciate her.

But her children don't rise up immediately.  They do not publicly praise her right away.  It is only after days, weeks, years, of faithful daily, sacrificial investment, that they look back and begin to see her faithfulness to care for them, train them, nurture them...sometimes even at the expense of "fun."

Mothers -- you are sowing seeds in the hearts of their children.  You may not be the "fun one" now, because caring for your children may sometimes, often, mean that you do things they do not like.  Things that don't make you very "fun."  Things that may not make them "mommy's happy girl."

But the Bible says that your faithfulness in the little things will reap a harvest in the long term.  And even your kids will one day see it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Your Special Needs Child: Living Out the True Gospel

Before I had children, I was told that being a parent will deepen my understanding of the Gospel.  After all, the story of the Gospel is one of an all-powerful God, who made Himself human, to rescue people who could not rescue themselves.  Ephesians 2 says that we were DEAD, and God made us spiritually alive!

Then, you have children.  You literally bring a person into being.  You give him life.  Your very body nourishes and grows her.  The, you bring him into the world, and you feed, clothe, and nurture this precious, helpless child.  You bring life to one who would otherwise die.  And all the while, you get a glimpse into how God takes care of you - He moves towards you and gives you life in your helpless state.

And parenting images the Lord in a beautiful way.

But in an incomplete way. 

Because here's the difference:  Eventually, those children move from "helpless" to "independent."  What was once a lopsided relationship with the parent serving and the child receiving, has become a reciprocal relationship.  In fact, most children grow up into adults that eventually care for their helpless parents.  Eventually, the roles are reversed.

But that's not the Gospel. 

The Gospel is not about God giving us a little push at the beginning, helping us for a couple years until we're "big enough, old enough," to do things on our own, reciprocate His love, even "help Him out" years down the road.  The Gospel is about a God who nourishes, stretnghtens, saves - continually, faithfully, every day-- until the day of glory.

If you have a special needs child, your temptation might be to resent the fact that he will never outgrow his helplessness.  That she will never become independent.  Please understand, there's something profoundly and eternally beautiful about what you're doing, and what you're learning.

The Lord has chosen to reveal to YOU what not every parent may get to see -- the lifelong, gospel-imaging, care for a helpless person -- rescue and care long after they should have "outgrown" their need.  For that is what God has done for us.  He is the faithful rescuer, pursuer, Father to His helpless children.   And He is the God who calls you to do the same.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Your Special Needs Child: You Are Serving a King

Do you remember the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast?

On a cold wintery night, an old beggar approaches a forlorn castle, seeking shelter from the one inside.  Yet instead of taking her in, he disdainfully casts her out.  Oh, if only he knew!  For the old woman was not who she appeared to be -- she was actually a beautiful enchantress, who would curse the selfish prince, for he could not see past her outer shell to see the person within.

We all know its a fairy tale.

But perhaps we're more similar to the prince than we realize.   We too forget that there's royalty in our home.

We forget the words of the rightful King:

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me ...Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25

Jesus implores His disciples: when you care for the weak and the helpless -- for the "least of these" -- you are indeed caring for Him.

Every faithful act of every faithful parent is indeed real service to the King.  The most menial tasks of your day -- feeding, clothing, changing, caring -- can in actuality be the most significant, for you are actually serving royalty.

Most children will outgrow the helpless stage, the need to be fed, clothed, served, cared for when they're sick.  But not all children.

Some of you may be spoon feeding your  6-year-old.
Speaking for your 8-year-old.
Dressing your 10-year-old.
Changing diapers on your 12-year-old.
Reading to your 18-year-old.
Making decisions for your 30-year-old.

Some kids, in some areas, may never outgrow their helplessness.  Your faithful, long-suffering, care for the "least of these" children, is in fact a gift of faithful service to the King of Kings.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Your Special Needs Child: The Privilege of Advocacy

I often find myself exhausted trying to get my daughter the medical and developmental help she needs.  We battle with insurance companies, plead with doctors, discuss with therapists, all in the name of getting her the help she needs.  And most of the time, we are powerless.  We have nothing to offer except our passion to see her healed.

It may be similar for you.

You may feel incompetent next to doctors and specialists. You may wonder if you're doing the "right things" when you watch therapists experimenting with the latest techniques and tools.  After all, THEY are the ones who know what they're talking about.  You don't have the background, the degree, the language.

But you have something that doctors, specialists, therapists, special education teachers, don't have.

You have a special assignment.
And it's from the God of the Universe:
you alone are your child's spokesperson.

It may seem like an insignificant, trivial, normal part of your parental role, but don't this lightly:

You are your child's advocate.

And you may be the only advocate your child has.


Remarkably, the pattern and esteem of advocacy is upheld throughout the Scriptures.

Read through the Gospels, and you'll find story after story of people approaching Jesus -- not for themselves--but on behalf of those they love, someone who couldn't go to Jesus on their own.

Matthew 9.  Four men lower their paralytic friend through a roof in front of Jesus.
Mark 9.  A Gentile women approaches Jesus on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter.
Luke 7. A Centurion pleads with Jesus to heal his dying servant.

And it each instance - Jesus heals the sick.  But He does so based on the faith of their advocate.

There's something beatufiul about an advocate.  It about more than just championing a cause.
An advocate is one who stands between the HELPLESS and the HELPER -- pleading the case of the helpless, appealing to the heart of one who can help.

And when you advocate for your child, you represent something far greater than a simply a parent who wants whats best for her child.  

You represent Jesus Christ Himself. 

1 John 2: 1-2
"If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

Jesus Christ champions the cause of the helpless.  He approaches the Father to plead on our behalf.  And He does not use a medical degree, or specialized language, or a persuasive argument.

He uses His very blood.  Jesus Christ sacrificed His very sinless life, so that we -- the helpless -- could get the Help we needed.

Most children will outgrow their need for "advocacy" -- eventually, they learn to eat on their own, write on their own, sign their own name, make their own money.  But not all kids.   Some children will need someone to speak for them, think for them, fight for them, decide for them -- maybe for the rest of their time on this earth.

If you have a child that needs a little extra advocacy than most -- you are blessed. You are privileged.  With your very words and actions, you live out a greater advocacy that takes place in the heavenly realm - Jesus Christ advocating for us.